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USA 2008
Secrets of the Southwest

Week 1
Week 2 Week 3

Saturday, 13th September, 22 °C, sunny
Five Hole Arch, Strike Valley Overlook
Total Miles
: 241
Accommodation: Rainbow Country B&B, Escalante

From Green River we took a dirt road south which leads to Horseshoe Canyon. Our first stop was at the cold water geyser of Old Chaffin Ranch and after 36 miles we took the turn-off to Five Hole bzw. Colonnade Arch which we reached after a 4.6 miles hike passing by Crocodile Rock on the way. 

It was 12 p.m. when we continued on our trip. After another 35 miles we reached Highway 24. We passed through Hanksville and at 2 p.m. we turned off onto Notom Bullfrog Road. Another 34 miles of dirt road to the Burr Trail Switchbacks. We took the 4WD road to Strike Valley Overlook. After a short hike of 0.5 miles we arrived at a fantastic viewpoint across the Waterpocket Fold.We also discovered a small arch above the road.

Afterwards we drove through Long Canyon with its impressive red walls. It was 5 p.m. when we reached Boulder. I think Highway 12 is one of the most beautiful roads in the world. Another 28 miles till the village of Escalante. Here we had booked three nights at Rainbow Country B&B ($62 AAA rate). Breakfast here was great: French toast with strawberries, scrambled eggs, , American pancakes, tacos, muffins, etc. We had dinner at the Cowboy Blues Restaurant which we knew from a previous trips. Nothing special for our wedding anniversary, but it was good nevertheless.

Sunday, 14th September, 29 °C, sunny
Big Horn Canyon
Total Miles
: 28
Accommodation: Rainbow Country B&B, Escalante

There wasn't much driving today but a long hike. Big Horn Canyon was well worth the effort. There are several slot canyons and dryfalls, not always easy to circumvent. Part of the landscape shows a lot of simularity with the famous Wave, fossilized sand dunes. Colors are fantastic. Once we reached the West Fork we had a look into the slot canyon before we turned back. It was 2:30 p.m. The complete hike took 8 hours. We had covered 24 km. Two liters of water per person were not really sufficient. It was hot. This was a very exhausting hike so we didn't do anything else. Drove back to Escalante, had a shower and met with Werner and his son for dinner. We knew him from an internet community.

Monday, 15th September, 31 °C, sunny
HIRR: Zebra and Tunnel Slot, Sunset and Moonrise Arch, Devil’s Garden
Total Miles: 97
Accommodation: Rainbow Country B&B, Escalante

The Visitor Center in Escalante confirmed this morning that there might be water in the Zebra Slot, however, we decided to give it a try anyway. The trailhead is 8 miles down Hole-in-the-Rock Road. It took about an hour to reach the entrance to the slot, and there was no water! So we climbed in. It's a beautiful slot, so we took lots of pictures. But getting closer to noon there was too much sunlight in the canyon, too much contrast. At 11:30 p.m. we continued our hike towards Tunnel Slot passing by fields of Moqui marbles! There was water in the Tunnel Slot, and as we didn't feel like wading through the murky water, we only glanced in. There was a nice reflection in the water from the entrance on the other side. It was 1 p.m. when we turned back.

We continued down Hole-in-the-Rock Road for 28 miles to Fourtymile Ridge Road, and another 4 miles to the trailhead for Sunset Arch. It was an hour's drive. It was 4 p.m., excellent late afternoon light. We visited  Moonrise Arch as well. It was 5:30 p.m when we were back at the car. We made it to Devil's Garden just before sunset.

You will find descriptions of today's hikes in Laurent Martrès's book „Photographing the Southwest – Southern Utah“.

Had great rainbow trouts at the Cowboy Blues. Including beer and a coke for $35.  

Tuesday, 16th September, 28 °C, sunny
Covered Wagon Natural Bridge & Cedar Wash Arch, Escalante Overlook, Willis Creek, Kodachrome Basin S.P.
Total Miles
: 131
Accommodation: Kodachrome Basin State Park

We left Escalante via Cedar Wash Road. Along the road you can follow short trails to Covered Wagon Natural Bridge and Cedar Wash Arch. Back on Highway 12 we took a dirt road to Escalante Overlook. Hiking along the canyon rim for 10 minutes you get a view Death Hollow Canyon to the north and Escalante River Canyon to the east.

Back in Escalante we grabbed a sandwich at Subway. It was 11:30 a.m. when we continued towards Cannonville. At the BLM Office we asked for Willis Creek Canyon. This is 6 miles down Skutumpah Road. It's an easy hike with a few interesting slot passages. While the best part is not far from the trailhead we continued down the canyon for 1 hour before we turned back. Early morning or late afternoon is best for photographs. We continued a short distance down the road to Bull Valley Gorge, where a car crashed down the canyon in 1954 and can still be seen below the bridge.

At 3:30 p.m. we checked into our pre-booked cabin ($85 plus tax) in Kodachrome Basin State Park. The cabin looked like a motel room from inside: 2 Queen beds, fridge, microwave and bathroom, but no TV. We decided to make use of the barbecue grill outside the cabin and drove to nearby Tropic to buy two steaks and potato salad. While we had dinner we enjoyed the sun bathing the red rocks of the state park in a beautiful glow.

Wednesday, 17th September, 28 °C, a.m. partly cloudy, p.m. sunny
Red Top und Yellow Rock
Total Miles: 79
Accommodation: Canyon Colors B&B, Page

Dark rain clouds on the horizon, but still we turned south on Cottonwood Canyon Road. After 27 miles we reached the trailhead for today's hike. It was 9:40 a.m. We put on our hiking boots, packed our wading boots, rain gear, food, water and off we went. We had to wade through Paria River a few times, and finally climbed up a rock face. Here we came face to face with a big horn sheep! The trail was not easy to find, even with GPS. Actually, there was no trail! So we followed our instinct and the few waypoints we had. We reached Red Top, a magnificently colored area of slickrock, waited a while for better light, then continued through Yellow Rock Valley to Yellow Rock itself. From the top of this fossilized sand dune you get a 360° view with Castle Rock to the north and Red Top to the south. It was 2:40 p.m. when we left Yellow Rock. We climbed down the steep and slippery trail and followed a wash back to the car. After almost 7 hours hiking we were glad to rest our feet. But it was still quite a drive to the city of Page including 12 more miles on Cottonwood Canyon Road until we reached Highway 89. Got there at 5:45 Uhr Utah time, so it was still an hour earlier according to Arizona time. We had booked at Canyon Colors Bed & Breakfast for two nights ($95 incl. tax). Breakfast was good: French Toast or American Pancakes, fresh fruit, yoghurt, muffins. We had dinner at Fiesta Mexicana ($26 plus Tip).

Thursday, 18th September, 29 °C, partly cloudy, local thunderstorms
The Wave and Stud Horse Point
Total Miles
: 103
Accommodation: Canyon Colors B&B, Page

At 8:30 a.m. we got on the road. Via Highway 89 and Houserock Valley Road it took an hour to reach Wire Pass trailhead. Once again (see my travelogue of 2006) we were lucky to get permits for Coyote Buttes North.

The sky was blue but they had announced thunderstoms for late afternoon. We hoped to be back by then. Instead of rain gear we packed 3 liters water each. As soon as we approached the Wave after a 1 hour 15 minutes hike, dark clouds appeared. We explored the area and climbed up to Top Rock. There was dramatic light at the Second Wave with dark clouds in the background. Eventually the rain did hit us. But it was gone as soon as it had come. It was 4:30 p.m. when we started our hike back to the car.

Back on Highway 89 towards Page we took a dirt road to Stud Horse Point. The hoodoos are great in afternoon light. By now it was 5:30 p.m. Back in Page we went to the Dam Bar & Grille for a fish & chips dinner ($41 plus tip).

Friday, 19th September, 28 °C, sunny, local thunderstorms at midday
Sidestep Canyon & Rainbow Valley, White Pocket
Total Miles: 95
: in the car

We drove to Basha’s to buy sandwiches for lunch and a roast chicken for dinner. We got on the road at 9 a.m. For the morning we had planned Sidestep Canyon and Rainbow Valley which are accessed via Cottonwood Canyon Road. It took an hour to get there. Klaus was already there. We had agreed to meet here via an internet travel community to tackle the drive to White Pocket together. After a bit more than an hour of exploring the two hoodoo valleys we set off. We took the route via the Houserock Valley Road and Corral Valley. There was thunder and lightning in the direction we were heading.

While rain is not good for driving Houserock Valley Rock as you can get stuck on the muddy road, it makes the sandy 4WD track to the White Pocket easier to drive. So we were quite lucky, as especially as the rain had disappeared when we arrived at our destination and the few rain pools between the rocks even made for some interesting motives. It was 2:40 p.m. when we arrived. We explored the amazing landscape of different colorful shapes until sunset. After that we had our dinner and arranged our bed in the back of the car. The starry sky was simply amazing! Also the milky way was clearly visible and we saw a number of falling stars!

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